Update: GSK announced UK and EU resupply of Zyban (bupropion) for December 2023, see this blog post for more details
It has been just over eight months since GSK announced they were halting the supply of Bupropion (the brand name is “Zyban”) due to nitrosamine impurities. Since my previous blog post about the supply shortage, I have heard very little.
Imagine the scenario. Potential impurities are found in some HIV retroviral drugs that produce a small increase in the probability of contracting cancer over their lifetime. I think the last thing you would expect would be the immediate stoppage of the production of the antiretroviral drugs in question. Leaving a patient vulnerable to imminent death as HIV progresses to AIDS is of greater importance than a tiny increase in lifetime cancer risk.
Yet, in the world of mental health treatment, this type of scenario has recently unfolded with the stoppage of the supply of Bupropion (Zyban) in the UK, leaving me and many others without the drug keeping them out of depression.
In the past, I have been refused treatments that eventually worked, and had interactions with past clinicians that unintentionally drove me towards suicide, rather than away from it.
It took me a very long time to find a psychiatrist I trust. Once I did, we landed on a combination of medications that have progressively eased my symptoms over the last couple of years. I take one of these medications off-label (this means that the medication is licensed for another condition, not the one I am taking it for). My current psychiatrist is the first I have met willing to prescribe this medication.
This is quite possibly going to be the most self-aggrandising article I will ever write. Maybe I have finally descended into pure and utter delusion. But the experimentalist in me strongly believes that what I say in the title is true. I think my life accidentally became the near perfect experiment to discover biochemical causes of anxiety.
“How did I miss this?” I say to myself. I had just found a case study by Catalano et al.  describing the development of panic attacks in two patients shortly after initiation of the antidepressant Sertraline. Importantly, the patients had no personal or family history of any anxiety condition. I had been searching for an article like this since 2015. It was now 2021.
Referring to the article: A physicist’s experience of the mental-health system
and podcast: Start-up simulates quantum photonics devices, a physicist’s experience of the mental-health system
A while ago, my counsellor asked me to write something to give to a psychiatric researcher she knew from her work at a mental health hospital. She felt strongly that the things I was talking about in our sessions needed to be heard.
I obliged. I wrote a sort of manuscript looking thing. At that time I didn’t have the energy to write it in any sort of structure to help the reader. All I could do was splurge what was in my head onto paper. I cleaned it up as much as I could, then sent it off to her.
Hope is found in a corridor of darkness, feet and hands chained to the ground, only the faintest speck of light far off in the distance.
It is not found at the start of a race or in the bleachers of a stadium.
It is not found in political offices, on posters or a ballot paper.
It is not found in forward-thinking companies, in school halls or lecture theatres.
It is not the search to find a friend or lover.
It is not in a lottery ticket or job position.
It is not following a pop star, motivational speaker or politician.
It is not a yearning or an ambition or a heroic figure.
Hope, is keeping your head turned towards the light, even after it seems to fade from view.